If you thought the West Loop ran out of restaurant real estate…think again. September brought a handful of new spots to the neighborhood, including two stylish Restaurant Row tenants and a new tasting menu concept on the second floor of Time Out Market from S.K.Y. chef Stephen Gillanders. You’ll also find a carb haven perfect for enjoying some sweater-weather pastries, plus a South Loop Italian favorite that got a revival from a well-known restaurant group.
You’re here because: You’re up for a night on the town including cocktails at this sophisticated yet playful bi-level spot.
You’re dining on: American small plates with a touch of influence from Spain, Italy and France, in the former Vivo space. Belly up next to the large windows overlooking Restaurant Row or get cozy in an upstairs booth. In either locale, you’ll find plenty of homemade pastas like the spinach and ricotta gnudi with ricotta butter or lumache with sausage, rapini and herbed ricotta. Lighter plates include Spanish octopus with marble potatoes and romesco. If your idea of shared plates includes a 60-day dry-aged ribeye or whole branzino, Hide + Seek has you covered there, too. A short list of cocktails includes the Raspberry Beret shaken with gin, berries, egg white and flavors of rose, orange blossom and lemon, plus you’ll find wines by the glass carrying the same worldly influences as the food menu.
838 W. Randolph St. (map)
You’re here because: You’re a fan of Bonhomme Hospitality’s other concepts like Porto and Beatnik, and know to expect stunning ambiance paired with picture-perfect cuisine.
You’re dining on: A menu that takes you on an “aesthetic and culinary journey along the Silk Road.” Bambola’s menu is divided into four sections including “Rivers + Seas” and “Pastures + Courtyards.” The former includes lobster curry spaghetti with coconut curry cream finished tableside in a Parmesan cheese wheel, while the latter includes a 40-ounce dry-aged tomahawk with XO sauce. The cocktail list includes a mix of spirit-free drinks including an option with saffron, green cardamom, vanilla, basmati rice, almond and nutmeg, plus spirit-forward libations like a lemongrass and chili cocktail with rum, lychee and coconut.
1402 W. Randolph St. (map)
You’re here because: You fell in love with Ben Lustbader and Sarah Mispagel’s baked goods from their days popping up inside Logan Square’s Superkhana International and/or you want to try a slice of The Bear’s chocolate cake. [We talked to Mispagel about that dessert right as Loaf Lounge opened.]
You’re dining on: An all-day menu of assorted sandwiches, pastries, cookies, cakes and breads. Step right up to the counter for rotating loaves including focaccia, olive polenta, caramelized onion and honey oat. Lustbader, who honed his craft most recently at Giant, focuses on the savory side with breakfast sandwiches like the capicola, egg and cheese with fig mostarda on a croissant, while Mispagel’s sweet standouts include an almond bear claw, ruby sprinkle cookie and slices of the chocolate cake made famous by The Bear, which employed her as a pastry consultant. A full coffee and tea bar rounds out the casual menu.
2934 N. Milwaukee Ave. (map)
You’re here because: You were crushed when they announced their closure during the pandemic.
You’re dining on: Cafe Bionda is back with a new restaurant group, refreshed space and an Italian chef. Classics like sausage and peppers, brick chicken and cavatelli al forno grace the menu, while newcomers include caprese burrata and housemade short rib ravioli topped with a red wine demi-glace. The warm, candlelit dining room is the perfect place to enjoy an autumnal, carb-heavy meal with a glass or two of wine from the Italian-focused wine list.
1924 S. State St. (map)
You’re here because: You’ve followed the culinary career of Chef Stephen Gillanders and are excited for his next venture.
You’re dining on: An à la carte or tasting menu at the first standalone restaurant inside Time Out Market. The upscale concept hopes to attract a different crowd and make better use of the food hall’s spacious second level. Grab a seat at the chef’s counter and catch a view of the open kitchen as Chef Gillanders prepares dishes inspired by his culinary journey, like seared scallops with brown butter, enoki mushrooms and bonito, or lamb with berbere, tomato butter and artichoke. A full wine list and wine pairings are also available to complement your meal.
916 W. Fulton Market (map)
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.